With a rhythm section made up of two electric jazz legends, bassist Alphonso Johnson and drum god Billy Cobham, this quartet uses the Dead's music as a starting point, then takes off to places unimagined by most Deadheads. Dixie Dregs founder T. Lavitz sits in the organ and keyboard chair, while guitar wunderkind Jimmy Herring steps to the front to take fusion guitar to heights unreached since Al Di Meola left Return to Forever. Looking like the Allmans' little brother, Herring moves from looping lines reminiscent of Jerry Garcia and Dickey Betts to inspired improvisations out of the Larry Coryell/John McLaughlin/Al Di Meola playbook. Longtime Dead listeners will recognize most of the melodies, but the arrangements and solos by this amazing quartet transform the originals. And, while this album only hints at the phenomenal interplay Jazz is Dead achieves in concert, it is one of the most remarkable studio recordings to fall under the often-maligned jazz-rock fusion banner in many a year. Cobham's work with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Johnson's with Weather Report helped redefine the parameters of jazz and rock in the '70s. Through this project, they and their bandmates bring musical adventurousness, rhythmic complexity and instrumental virtuosity to a whole new generation, while rekindling the spark in those who were around for fusion's heyday 25 years earlier. With Blue Light Rain, Jazz Is Dead affirms that this music anything but.
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AllMusic Review by Jim Newsom